Wows & Big Wows
Words Of Admonition
There is a traditional blues tune called Gospel Plow. It is driven by high energy harmonica riffs and contains these rather cryptic sounding lyrics:
“Matthew, Mark and Luke and John…All those prophets are dead and gone…Keep your hand on that plow…hold on!”
It is an obvious echo of Jesus of Nazareth’s admonition: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Wow. Those are hard words to reconcile for there is no place to hide in that statement; there isn’t even any wiggle room.
What does Jesus require of us? What does he really want from us mere mortals? What does it mean to keep our hand on the plow?
Jesus calls for unswerving steadfastness. He wants us to be like trustworthy plow horses with blinders on, staying focused only on the task ahead. Our inclination is to be distracted by the pleasures of this world or to wander off aimlessly chasing illusions of grandeur, but Jesus demands straight-line devotion to kingdom causes.
At the Last Supper, Jesus crystallized his message to us in one powerful charge: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Wow again; maybe even a double Wow.
Later that evening, Jesus really put a fine point on it: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” That’s a Big Wow. Love and obedience joined at the hip? Yikes, that certainly stretches us and our perspective, doesn’t it?
Then we comprehend that Christ was most definitely not talking about love the way it has come to be used and abused by our self-indulgent culture. It is evident that in today’s world self-gratification must be realized at all costs.
Love that is patient, love that is kind, love that is attentive to the well being of others before ourselves is rare. We claim ignorance; we skitter away from those high expectations because deep in our bones we understand that to love in that fashion is completely unnatural to the self-absorbed human race.
True enough. So what are we to do with Christ’s towering ideals? Jettison them?
Mirror Of Honesty
We can dance around these issues all we like, doing fancy word-play pirouettes to justify our failings and shortcomings. We do have a seemingly infinite ability to make exceptions for ourselves as we slice and dice meanings.
Yes, we can and do sugarcoat our inadequacies as we engage in splitting linguistic hairs to get us off the hook. Yet, if we take Christ’s teachings seriously, they ought to be a spur compelling us forward with integrity.
Keep your hand on that plow…hold on! Much easier said than done. In fact, when we stare into the mirror of honesty we discover that the naked truth is not at all palatable. Despite our efforts at denial, the reflection of reality reveals that we fall far short of Christ’s standard of unyielding allegiance.
We cut corners. We pick and choose. We practice selective adherence to God’s precepts. We draw boundaries where there are no boundaries. We make excuses and allowances. We love the lovely, but ignore and avoid the unlovely.
We desire mercy, but would rather not talk too much about judgement, thank you very much. We want the power and glories of the resurrection while we do a nice little sidestep away from the suffering and shame of the cross.
Despite our dances and sidesteps, Christ’s words remain unchanged. He calls for our total dedication. Halfhearted commitment is unacceptable.
We are commanded to love one another with the same kind of selflessness with which he loves us. He wants us to demonstrate a single-minded sense of purpose.
Come what may we are to value wholehearted obedience to Christ Jesus, which can only be accomplished by our straight-line devotion to loving one another.
One problem: We are weak, imperfect and riddled with contradictions. We are human beings, so by definition we mess up and screw things over all the time.
Even so, by Christ’s requirements, to keep our hand on the plow and be fit for kingdom service we must love one another with selfless abandon.
We cannot do that on our own, but by God’s grace a remarkable provision has been made for our humanity. We have not been left alone; through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we have a fighting chance at loyalty, perseverance and unselfish love.
That is the Biggest Wow of all; a triple Big Wow. May our hearts and imaginations be absolutely inflamed by the transformational touch of the supernatural.
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
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